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Dance: grace, elegance, beauty, and poise

by | Jan 19, 2021 | Dance Portraits, Photography | 0 comments

On a Saturday in mid-November, I planned to create an image of a dancer surrounded by geometric leading lines directing the viewer’s attention to the image’s main subject. An additional advantage of this setting was the contrast between the hard, static, and unbending lines of the concrete walls with a dancer’s grace, fluidity, and dynamic movement. The diagonal lines created a sense of depth and movement towards the center of the image. The lines were fixed and inert. In contrast, the dancer would convey the poetry of graceful motion and poise. I had already scoped out the setting for the image, which I thought would provide a dramatic visual. It was a long colonnade with concrete columns and a high ceiling.

ballet and columnsThere is another interesting juxtaposition of dance and the concrete walls. While grace, elegance, beauty, and smoothness are intrinsic qualities of dance, it ascends from strength, control, and discipline of character. The dance is ephemeral, while the stone and concrete building structure is enduring.

I had the privilege of working with Chelsea, a gifted and talented ballerina. She brings creative ideas along with her gracious personality and the dexterity of a dancer. Chelsea’s training started as a social activity at Cleveland City Dance when she was four or five years old. As she matured, she contributed to her church’s worship through liturgical dance. During high school, Chelsea took modern dance classes and then lessons at the local community college. After moving to Indianapolis, her training continued with classes at the Indiana Ballet Conservatory in Carmel.

dance and movementReflecting on the significance of dance, Chelsea said, “Dance is a medium of communication and connection much like other visual forms of art. When I move my body, there is a freedom beyond the limitations of daily existence, and my imagination has wings. Through dance, I have come to realize that impossible is usually a state of mind.”

My wife, Donna, was also at the photography session to assist. Donna has a degree in interior design, and she has worked in theater. Her creative eye for aesthetics and design was a benefit to creating the image I hoped to capture. With any on-site photo session, there are many details demanding attention. While I was setting up the equipment and checking exposures, Donna was able to work with Chelsea on attire and poses. For the attire, we decided on a long black dress. We decide to forgo the dance shoes since the location was rough concrete.

Even with advanced planning, there are many variables, making it difficult to predict how the project would flow. The day started with heavy rain, so we delayed the agreed-upon meeting time until the afternoon. It was cold and windy, which complicated our careful planning.

There is always a tricky balance to capture a crisp image of movement in low light. A relatively low ISO setting is needed to minimize grain or sensor artifacts. At the same time, a relatively high shutter speed shutter setting is needed to freeze the movement. The lens was set to a large aperture to balance the low ISO and high shutter speed, but this resulted in a shallow depth of field. Some images had to be discarded because of focus or motion blur. However, I was pleased Chelsea’s blue eyes were sharp and clear in many of the images. One advantage of the shallow depth of field is to separate the main subject from the background, which was in soft focus.

ballet in the mistAfter capturing the planned images in the colonnade, we looked for other opportunities. Donna quickly spotted a large circular sculpture, which created an interesting frame.

The drab buildings in the background were not ideal. However, periodic bursts of steam from an underground pipe helped hide the background and created a sense of mystery and enchantment. I was able to capture an image in which Chelsea appeared to be rising out of the mist.

Before quitting for the day, we moved to one more location by some large windows with dark tinted glass. The reflection in the dark windows created an ethereal or ghostly feeling.

Post-processing is just as important as planning the photo session and clicking the shutter. “To err is human. To edit, divine.” The images with soft focus or disconcerting expression need to be culled. The horizontal and vertical lines need to be straightened. Cropping, dodging, burning, and color adjustment are all part of the process. In some complicated photography sessions, post-processing can consume more time than capturing the images in the first place.

dance reflectedI always aspire to better images that grasp one’s attention or tell an interesting story. There is always room for improvement, but all in all, I felt good about the day. I am grateful for the talent that Donna and Chelsea brought to this project. The project would have been impossible without them.

You can find many examples on In Dancing Light Photography stock images.

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